FOXBORO - We all know NFL statisics are malleable. We can shape them to say whatever we want and often they only tell half the story. Check this out: The Patriots are dead last in the NFL in total defense in terms of yards per game. They allow 416.3 total yards and 314.0 through the air. Second worst team in yards allowed? Well, no surprise. It's the Colts. They're 0-9 and allowing 406.1 yards per games, 260.0 through the air. And which team is 30th? That would be the Packers. They are 8-0. They're allowing 399.6 per game and, get this, 299.6 through the air. You can ascribe reasons that help explain all these teams. The Packers are so explosive, they get up on teams and a lot of the yardage totals are compiled in garbage time. The Colts? Well, they suck. The Patriots? A little of both. They've been ahead and teams have been forced to up-tempo it and take shots to try to keep pace. They've also been thrown all over in close games as well. Whatever the reason for the Patriots being 32nd in the most frequently cited measure of defense (by the way, Bill Belichick said this week that "points, turnovers and red zone" are the most important team stats in his mind), safety James Ihedigbo insists their time at the bottom is ending. "You never want to be last at anything in life," said Ihedigbo. "The fact that we're ranked 32nd in the league puts a nasty taste in our mouths and it's something - we're at the midpoint of the season - it's not something that has to change, it will change."This week, the Patriots play Ihedigbo'sold team, the Jets. He spent three seasons there, primarily as a special teams guy. With the Patriots, his role's been bigger. Starting in Week 5, the Patriots' win over the Jets, Ihedigbo's seen significant time. The time will grow more significant now as fellow safetyJosh Barrett has been put on injured reserve. "I definitely feel for him," said Ihedigbo. "It's something that's tough. You battle back from injury (Barrett had a broken thumb) and then have a tough calf injury like that at the end of the game. Tough for that to happen."Safety's been a big concern all season. The Patriots let steady James Sanders and inconsistent Brandon Meriweather go before the season. Now New England has a hobbled Patrick Chung back there as well."We'll definitely embrace the challenge (of playing the Jets)," said Ihedigbo. "It's a great opportunity this week coming up. Big game. Spotlight's definitely on us and people want to see what are the Patriots gonna do, are they gonna fold or are they gonna bounce back? It's definitely a statement game for us back in the secondary and I'll go out and say that it's a big game for us on our part."And the stat that tells no tales - wins and losses - will be the most important one after this one.
Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe.
The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.
“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”
Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.
Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.
“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”
Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.
Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.
Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children. He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.
Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.
Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004. He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.
The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993.
In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.
“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”